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Belgian cops disrupt akhand path
Arrest 30 Sikhs in immigration raid at gurdwara
Varinder Walia
Oct 20 , 2008


Amritsar: Coordinator of the American Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (AGPC) Pritpal Singh has criticised a raid at a gurdwara in Belgium by the Belgian police on the eve of Gurta Gaddi Diwas, disrupting akhand path of Guru Granth Sahib.

Talking to The Tribune on the phone today, the convener of the committee sought immediate intervention of Akal Takht to defuse the situation.

Dr Pritpal Singh said: “On behalf of 45 gurdwaras, he will write to the Belgian government for an explanation and also ask the America’s State Department to investigate the matter”.

The United Sikhs, an organisation, alleged that prayers were in progress for the tercentenary celebrations when the police raided Gurdwara Guru Nanak Singh Sahib in Vilvoorde, Belgium.

It stopped the prayers abruptly and arrested 30 persons as part of a citywide immigration raid.

The United Sikhs alleged that despite the protest of the gurdwara management that akhand path of Sri Guru Granth Sahib was taking place and that the granthi (person conducting the prayers) immediately displayed valid immigration papers, the police arrested him, stopping the path.

“The Sikh community was appalled by the police’s insensitivity in its actions during the raid, as it knew that the gurdwara was a place of worship. The organisation has decided to send a letter to the Belgian Prime Minister, seeking an investigation into the incident, an apology from the Belgian police and changes to the police procedures while handling places of worship”, Mejindarpal Kaur, legal director of the United Sikhs, said in a press note e-mailed today.

Mejindarpal contacted Ines Wouters, a Brussels-based lawyer, to investigate the matter and ensure that those arrested were being provided legal representation. The akhand path would restart.

Kuldip Singh, president of the United Sikhs, said: “Belgium has the right to enforce its immigration laws. However, the police actions here were blatantly disrespectful and violated all laws and norms regarding people’s right to prayer and worship in peace. There was no need for the police to stop the akhand path as valid papers were produced on the spot by the granthi”.

SGPC president Avtar Singh told the United Sikhs, “Sikh sentiments are hurt with the disruption of the akhand path of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The Belgian government should seek an explanation and apology through the Police Department for the action inside the gurdwara”.

“I will submit a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the government of Belgium to investigate the matter,” said the SGPC president.

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